Which Goals are Available in Google Analytics (GA4) & How Should You Use Them?

Published on: | Updated on: | Daniel Laloggia

If you’ve been tracking the success of your website for a while now, you will definitely have noticed the switch from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

While the new system was first introduced back in October 2020, it was announced in 2023 it would officially replace UA – and this has created a lot of problems for businesses trying to measure how customers interact with their website.

In this blog post, we’ll be looking at the main differences between Universal Analytics goals and GA4 conversions and provide advice for moving forward with GA4 to ensure you’re properly measuring the success of your website.

Expect to learn: 

  • How tracking goals in Google Analytics can help you generate more revenue
  • How many websites now use Google Analytics 4 to track their website interactions
  • What non-technical users can do to realize the full potential of Google Analytics 4

Why You Need to Track Goals in Google Analytics

One of the most powerful uses for Google Analytics is the ability to understand whether your website is actually fulfilling its objectives. However, this requires your analytics to go beyond broad metrics like page views and visitor volume – which is all Universal Analytics measured as a default.

Goals allow you to choose the outcomes and actions that matter most to your strategic aims and configure Google Analytics to track and analyze those specific things. This helps you gain insight into important strategic questions, such as:

  • Is my free trial offer appealing enough?
  • Does the promotion around my webinar need to be altered?
  • Do I need to invest in more conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts?
  • Am I producing enough leads from my website alone?

The takeaway? Goals help you understand your buyer journey and ultimately figure out how to drive more revenue. But measuring goals requires additional set-up in Google Analytics...  

Goal Tracking in Universal Analytics: The Good & The Bad

There were four main goal types in the previous version of Google Analytics: Destination, Duration, Pages/Screens per Session, and Event goals.

Goal Types in Universal Analytics

Destination goals tracked sessions where the visitor made it to a certain page on your site. For example, if you wanted them to visit your services page or a sign-up page, that would be the page you tracked.  

Duration goals looked at the amount of time a visitor would spend on your website before leaving. Were they on the site long enough to consume your content or gain any real insights into what your business does? 

Pages/Screens per Session tracked how many pages a visitor clicked on while browsing your website. How many pages did they view before leaving your site? 

Event goals allowed website owners to track other website interactions by using code to fire custom “events.” For example, if you wanted to measure how many people submitted a form on your contact page, you could set it up as an event.  

The Benefits of Universal Analytics Goals

These goal types allowed website owners who weren’t technical to track goals and gain most of the benefits discussed above. They could measure the most common elements of their website without needing to hire someone with specialist know-how to configure their tracking.  

As long as you wanted to track Destination, Duration, or Pages per Session as your goal, set up was extremely easy. Event goals were a bit trickier and did require some technical understanding. But with some additional research, it was possible.

The Problem with Universal Analytics

This easy-of-use came at a cost: detail. The basic templates for these goals were limited, and so many people were left trying to create custom events on their own without the technical knowledge they needed. However, custom event setup wasn’t particularly intuitive and many website users either struggled to make it work – or actively ended up tracking the wrong thing. 

This is an underappreciated factor with Google Analytics: using the wrong metric, or not properly addressing and combating fake traffic, can create a heavily distorted picture of your website interactions. If your goal is to make more informed strategic decisions, this could actually be worse than not tracking anything.  

Ultimately, users of UA struggled to achieve the level of data granularity they wanted within UA. Goals can only guide strategic decisions if they really measure what you care about – which most users couldn’t make them do with the old data model. But this wasn’t the only reason Google decide to give its analytics system an overhaul... 

Why Did Google Introduce GA4?

When it was first announced, GA4 was expected to solve many of the problems users found with UA. Google noted many benefits offered by the new generation of Analytics , including:  

  • Collecting data from both website and apps with the promise of a more comprehensive view of the buyer journey  
  • Increase privacy controls, including cookieless measurement in-line with the company’s discontinuation of the classic tracking system 
  • And perhaps most ironically, predictive capabilities that offered “guidance without complex models” 

Why is this ironic? Because the widespread response to GA4 from marketers of all stripes has been that, while in many ways better than its predecessor, GA4 is extremely complex to use – and actually alienates many novices completely.  

How Does GA4 Differ from Universal Analytics? 

GA4 is a major change from Universal Analytics; the entire framework that Google uses to track and measure websites and online activity has seen an overhaul. In fact, the company itself notes that the shift to GA4 demands a “rethink [of] your data collection”.  

There are two main differences between the two models: 

The first concerns reporting. Many of the out-of-the-box reports that were included with UA are either unavailable or require you to build them for yourself using the not-so-intuitive report builder. 

The second is how GA4 measures user interactions. While UA measured sessions and page views, GA4 uses events and event parameters: 

  • An event is now any action that takes place on your website. A simple example would be a click on your website. 
  • An event parameter is an additional piece of information to add context to an event. The event parameter might be a specific video being clicked, allowing you to see exactly which bit of content was viewed. 

To be clear, GA4 still allows you to measure things like “page views” - but they are now classified as events.  

3 Important Benefits of Google Analytics 4 

This new measurement model offers several benefits to those that can master its complicated system: 

1. Data granularity

GA4 provides far more granular data than UA and puts you in control of what is measured. Event-based measurement allows you to define any number of specific interactions and track them specifically – which opens a world of possibilities for creative marketing optimization. You can measure user behavior down to the individual scroll if you wish and use it all to attribute conversions with greater precision.

2. App and website tracking 

GA4 makes it easier to track application and website data together. Not only does this make life simpler, but it also allows you to gain insight into the differences between them. You can see whether mobile, desktop or tablet produce higher conversions or lead users to engage more – and use those insights to optimize the user-experience across both app and website.  

3. Detailed insights 

GA4’s flexibility lets you determine exactly which data you want to generate and analyze. If you are truly only interested in a handful of metrics, that’s all you have to see. But if you want comprehensive insight into a wide range of aspects of your website, GA4 offers a powerful but complicated custom reporting tool that contains far more detail than UA was capable of. 

Ultimately, GA4 can track almost anything your older UA system did – and a lot more. But there is a major drawback... 

The Problem with GA4: Making Sense of Analytics for Casual Users

To many users’ minds, GA4 has traded usability for granularity – and that puts a lots of website owners and business users in a difficult situation. Duration and Pages per Session Goals are no longer options, and if you’d like to track those elements, it’ll require custom coding. Unless you simply want to look at visitors to a page, this can become extremely complex. 

Setting up goals is no longer an easy feat. In fact, they’re not even called goals anymore - "goal tracking" in UA is now "key events" in GA4. There are no more templates that you can use as a starting point, and the granularity of data GA4 offers becomes an active hindrance when all you want is to figure out whether your website is doing what it’s supposed to! 

How to Set Up "Key Events in GA4

To create a key event in GA4, you have to start with a new custom “event.” The good news is that you can still set up Destination Events (conversions) in GA4 using the “page_location” parameter - so if you just need to track when people visit your URL, you can do this quite easily. There are also many other pre-build parameters that you can use for conversions, including “value of a sale”, discount codes and many others.  


After you’ve created the Event, you can turn it into a key event. However, for most activity on the website (including Duration and Pages per Session), you’ll need to build out custom configurations using tools like Google Tag Manager, to fire events that you can track using the “event_name” parameter.

What This Means for You

The introduction of GA4 has caused a major shake up, but 14.2 million websites already use the service. We recommend businesses take this shift as an opportunity to assess their approach to tracking and analytics – and consider how GA4 could help them generate deeper and more useful insights into their website.  

Website owners with technical expertise will find that GA4 offers a lot more power and flexibility to track exactly what you care about. But non-technical website owners will have a much harder time. You’ll have a difficult time setting up any Events that don’t use the limited built-in options. And to accurately track user behavior, you’ll likely have to seek external technical help...

Use a Specialized Agency for Your B2B Marketing Analytics in GA4

GA4 is an exciting upgrade from its predecessor and there’s a lot you can do with it - as long as you have the knowledge and understanding. With the right know-how and experience, you can pinpoint exactly how to optimize your website to increase conversions and maximize ROI.  

That’s where we come in.  

Your clients trust you because you’re a specialist in what you do. And our clients trust us because we’re the foremost experts in what we do. B2B marketing analytics is our world, and we make it our business to know the ins and outs. If you don’t have the time or expertise to get to grips with GA4, get in touch, and we’ll talk you through what we do and how we do it. 

Book a Growth Consultation


2. https://www.businessoutreach.in/digital-marketing-strategies-can-boost-roi/